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Minority Status and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) |

Minority Status and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)

Context

∙ A seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court (SC) is hearing the dispute over the minority character of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

About AMU

∙ Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a Muslim reformer, in 1877 founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO College) at Aligarh to address Muslim educational backwardness while protecting Islamic values.

∙ MOA not only imparted Western education but also emphasized Islamic theology.

∙ The Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1920 (AMU Act) was passed to incorporate the MAO college and the Muslim University Association into AMU.

Dispute over the minority character

∙ In 1951, the AMU Act was amended, removing compulsory religious education for Muslims and the exclusive Muslim representation mandate in the University Court.

∙ The legal dispute began in 1967 when the SC in S. Azeez Basha versus Union of India (UOI), reviewed the 1951 and 1965 amendments.

∙ The petitioners argued that since Muslims established AMU, they had the right to manage it.

∙ However, a five-judge SC bench upheld the amendments, reasoning that AMU was neither established nor administered by the Muslim minority, highlighting the Act’s enactment through Central legislation.

∙ This ruling triggered nationwide protests, leading to the amendment of the AMU Act in 1981, affirming the university’s minority status.

∙ In 2005, AMU reserved 50% of postgraduate medical seats for Muslim candidates.

∙ The Allahabad High Court struck down the reservation policy in Dr Naresh Agarwal vs UOI (2005) holding the 1981 amendment unconstitutional.

Case in Supreme Court

∙ The apex court is addressing two issues — the criteria for determining the minority status of an educational institution and whether an institution established under a statute can enjoy such status.

∙ While the petitioners argue that AMU is entitled to the minority status, the UOI is now endorsing the S. Azeez Basha verdict.

∙ The judgment in this case will set a precedent impacting the rights and legal recognition of all minority institutions.

What constitutes a ‘minority character?

∙ Article 30 in Part III, of the Indian Constitution states the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.

∙ Features of Article 30 of the Indian Constitution:

ο Article 30(1) says that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

ο Article 30(1A) deals with the fixation of the amount for acquisition of property of any educational institution established by minority groups.

ο Article 30(2) states that the government should not discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language, while giving aid.

∙ These institutions enjoy exemptions from the implementation of SC, ST, and OBC reservations in both admissions and employment. They can reserve up to 50% of seats for students from their community.

∙ In the T.M.A Pai Foundation (2002) case, the SC clarified that a ‘minority’ is to be determined by the concerned State’s demography, not the national population.

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